I’ve been working full time since I finished secondary school, in various office environments. During this time, I also studied towards (and finally obtained) a law degree and two additional postgraduate qualifications (each taking a year to complete on a part-time basis. Sometimes I juggled a full time study load and other times I was lucky enough to work part-time. As for work, my workload over the past few years had grown to be quite intensive, as there were no defined boundaries to the role. I got pulled into different business areas all the time, often absorbing one or two BAU functions of a project permanently.
Lists are my best friend
I love lists in all their underrated glory. If you are rushing from place to place and managing multiple commitments, it’s likely that you may notice or think of certain things and then quickly become distracted. The moment you think of something that you need to do, buy or write about, jot it down in a list. Preferably a permanent, appropriately categorised list. Don’t get in the habit of starting new lists constantly or you might lose track of them all! These are a few of my favourite lists.
The Wunderlist app is a godsend for me because it allows me to create categories for my list. This is not only fantastically efficient, but every time I’m clicking into one of the categories, for example ‘career’, the very name of the list serves as a visual prompter about why I need to achieve those particular tasks. It also helps me to prioritise. If something I need to do doesn’t fit within one of my specific categories, is it really important to me? Also, when I feel like I’ve missed something important, I scan the category names to jog my memory. I also enter any particular goals that I have in the appropriate category, for example, ‘drink more water’ has been sitting in the Health category for a long time. I may not get the satisfaction of ticking it off, but I see the reminder sitting there every time I open the category. The categories in my Wunderlist are:
- Health and Fitness
- Beauty and Home
- Shopping List
- Blog Post Ideas
- General To Do
The Expenses List
I’ve written about my budget in a previous post, however it would be sacrilege not to include it in this…list of my favourite lists. Yes, it did just dawn on me that I’m writing a lists about lists, I am that cool. My budget contains a spreadsheet list of reoccurring fortnightly expenses, which are broken down into the following categories: Needs, Wants and Savings. When I enter new line items in to each category, the spreadsheet automatically works out the percentage of my fortnightly income which I am committing to each category. As soon as I get paid, I consult my list and will pay all of the reoccurring expenses so there are no surprises. There is also an ‘upcoming expenses’ list where I record the major financial outlays (such as a new laptop, vehicle registration or a birthday present) coming up by their date, that way I know how much to put aside for them and in which pay period.
The Fridge List
The best thing we did to streamline our weekly shop was to place a magnetic whiteboard on the fridge. As soon as I notice that I’m approaching the end of a bottle of sauce, a paper towel roll, washing liquid, etc I’ll pop it on the list to ensure it’s purchased before the product actually runs out. I find this much more efficient then stopping what I’m doing to pick up my phone to type myself the reminder. When it comes to going to the store, I just snap a photo of the whiteboard.
The Study Commitments List
When I start a new semester at Uni, the first thing I do is list out all of the major deadlines, attendance dates and the examination period. Sure, the Uni will probably provide all of this information but it’s usually in different documents and there can be a lot of other information that doesn’t apply to me. Once I have this list, I will also plot the major dates into my calendar so I can see how they fit in with my social commitments. I also go as far as plotting reminders two weeks before the major dates to remind ‘future me‘ to stay on schedule. I have the list saved to my desktop and cross tasks off as I achieve them. This is also extremely therapeutic because as the red strike outs begin to overtake the page, I know I’m nearing the end!
The Work Dashboard
My work dashboard is strictly a one pager, which serves as both a tracker for me and a printable weekly update for my Manager. The list is divided into the different categories of work I perform, and there is only room to jot a one liner in relation to each project or body of work, as to not over complicate and compromise the ‘dashboard’ effect. There is also a section that lists my annual performance targets and development plan requirements so that I can track them throughout the year. Every week, I will skim the list and jot down the most recent developments, which often then prompts me to take certain actions or send follow up reminders. The key to this list is keeping it high level so it prompts you to refer to the detail, which leads me to…
The ‘Mini-Project’ List
When I’m driving or contributing to a small project that doesn’t warrant a project manager or an all out project schedule, I keep myself organised and accountable by listing out all of the required actions both leading up to and post implementation. I keep the list in the task section of my Outlook so that it is easily accessible. When I have an idea or a concern in the middle of other tasks, or when I’m allocated with action items during a meeting, I will add these to the relevant list as soon as possible. When I have accomplished a task, I will write the date next to that particular task and strike it out. If i need to consult with others or update my Manager on the project in detail, all I have to do is print the list out and refer to it. When I’ve wrapped up the project, I save the finished list and archive it in a folder. That way, if I’m ever required to implement a similar project, I can revive the list (with timings and all!) instead of mapping from scratch.
And last but certainly not least, the Inbox List
This may fly in the face of certain productivity advice, but I find that a significant aid in my productivity is managing my commitments via email. I am an absolute email stickler. I delete or archive emails that I have actioned immediately. Only unactioned emails are allowed to remain. That way, I always have a visual aid of at least the commitments that arrived to me via email (and in reality, most of them arrive this way), along with a time stamp indicating to me how long I’ve left someone waiting (never more than 48 hours unless I think you deserve it!). I try to keep my work inbox to under 20 emails and my personal inbox under 10. There is nothing more satisfying than having a lower than average count, however this doesn’t happen often. Also, I find that when I absolutely need to get something done, I will email myself! I email my personal inbox from work if there are things I need to do at home, and vice versa. Put the USB in your handbag. Bring your yoga gear home. Watch the new Girls episode (I’m not really loving season 3 at the moment though).
So, what do you think? Is my ‘list of lists’ excessive? Or do you have an awesome list that I’m missing out on? How do you keep yourself organised? I’d love to hear your thoughts.